Monday, 14 October 2019

WRECK OF THE MINOTAUR

GenresPunk / Mathcore / Grindcore / Chaotic Hardcore / Math-Grind / Tech-Grind
Related artists: Serenade of a Martyr, Rosewest and Brent Mason.
CountryLondon, England UNITED KINGDOM
Years Active2008-2011
Song: "Bull Fight Starts"
Album: "A Little Roy One On One"
Year: 2009
For fans ofThe Dillinger Escape Plan, Pig Destroyer, Daughters, Machinist, Destroyer Destroyer, Ed Gein, PsyOpus, Ion Dissonance, The Red Chord, Brazen Bull, An Isle Ate Her, Nervaxis, Chronicles of Adam West, Galleons, Tower Of Rome and Oblivionized.
Label(s): Self Released
This post's artist is from the October 2019 Mix. This is track #3.
You can download: the October 2019 Mix#10 right here or get the new November 2019 Mix#11 here

Review by: Tarquin Jones

WRECK OF THE MINOTAUR was a 4 piece math-grind outfit from London, United Kingdom. The band took their name from the 'The Wreck of the Minotaur' oil on canvas painting by J.M.W. Turner which was completed in 1810. This painting forms part of a series of large-scale compositions painted by Turner and is dedicated to the depiction of natural catastrophes and sea storms. This is such a fitting name for the band, as their music is as equally turbulent as being swept away in a raging oceanic squall. During the band's existence, they would tour with fellow countrymen The Boy Will Drown and Burnt by the Sun from the United States. The band also garnered some slight notoriety for their explosive and somewhat destructive live shows which led to them being banned from several local venues as a result.

Looking into the bands line up, they originally consisted of James Schwartz on vocals, Nick Hill on guitars, Iain Wilson on bass and Lee Clifton on drums. Nick would depart the band in 2009 due to a work promotion. This resulted in him having time constraints and unfortunately prevented him from being able to focus properly on the band. Sol Philcox would then join on guitar and later depart sometime during the spring of 2009. This was due to him wanting to pursue a career as a session guitarist and being made some work offers abroad. Sol emigrated to the States to tour with country star Brent Mason and has subsequently become well known in the session musician industry. Sometime after Sol's departure, the band would secure a guitarist position with Alex Gent (ex-Rosewest) joining the fold. He would leave the band in 2011 due to intense work commitments and time constraints as well.

I first came across the band via my daily searches of older music blogs around 2009. I was always in the pursuit of new underground music and their name struck a chord with me. I decided to check them out and was pleasantly surprised by the band's brand of unbridled chaos and technical proficiency. I added their jams to my growing music archive and have been listening to them ever since. A few years later through the power of Facebook networking, I connected with James and we became good friends. We would often talk about various 'core' related music, shows happening in the UK and his band WRECK OF THE MINOTAUR.

Right, let's get to the talking about the band's music. WRECK OF THE MINOTAUR released their first and only physical release in 2009. It was a self-released 5 track EP entitled 'A Little Roy One On One'. The title of the EP is a reference to the 1996 sports comedy film 'Kingpin' which features Woody Harrelson as the lead character 'Roy'. The EP was recorded and produced by Dan Abela at Escape Route Studios. The studio is noted for having worked with the bands Gallows, November Coming Fire and Bleed From Within to name a few. The overall sound on this EP is pretty decent for a debut release. It has a somewhat raw quality to it, which helps to evoke an organic feel. The instruments are also really loud and punchy which is always essential for me as a listener. Jame's blood-curdling screams sit right at the forefront of the mix demanding your attention to max effect.

The EP boasts some striking artwork and was done by the artist Kate Collins. The cover is inspired in part by the 2000 psychological horror film 'American Psycho'. There is a strong usage of grungy tones on the composition, mostly in dirty shades of yellows, reds, and browns. The cover also features an illustrated masked character holding a bloody hatchet and it has a demented look in its eye. Off to the right side of the layout are the band's name and EP title. This is scrawled in a haphazard fashion in blood red. The impression one gets from glancing at the cover is that this EP will be an unpredictable and twisted ride. Sure enough, this rings true once the play button is hit.

The EP kicks off with the track "Big Money Stella". It begins with a short introductory audio clip, before fading into feedback and igniting vigorously with James' piercing scream. The listener is instantly hit by a wall of frenetic guitars and heavy-hitting drums. All of this jarring technical insanity is finally locked down and reigned in around 26-sec in. The band utilizes a chugging riff and accompanies this with hints of melodic dissonance. Moments later, the band kicks things back into overdrive before the 1 min mark. They employ some more technical guitar work and fast blasting drums that pummel one's ears. This eventually leads into a mighty bass boom and charges into a driving section of rock 'n roll infused riffage and angular guitar squeals. Finally, a moment arrives and offers some minor reprieve for the listener to catch their bearings. The band uses this time to employ a catchy jazz-influenced interlude section. This features some bold bass lines, tasteful drum grooves and weaving textural guitar work. The arrival of a solid snare crack and two china cymbal hits close this section out. It sets off a final spark that ignites a climax to close the track out. This features an ending with some well-timed stop/start moments, loud distorted guitars, thrashing drums and booming low-end bass. On the track's final pause before kicking in again, the band gives one last gang vocal call. They all scream in unison the track's title, "Big Money Stella". The listener is then enveloped by Jame's manic screams and within an all-consuming wall of dissonance.

Track number 2 is "Bull Fight Starts" and one of my personal favourites off the EP. It begins with a sharp stabbing dissonant attack of guitars, James' volatile screams and underlying bursts of double bass flurries. I'm reminded by some of the technical elements of bands like The Dillinger Escape Plan here. Things slowly take a turn and develop into a more locked down passage later on. The drums and guitars alternate between bursts of calculated intensity and some more punctuated distorted riffs. I find that some of these guitar ideas wouldn't seem out of place on something akin to the likes of 'O' God The Aftermath' by Norma Jean. It's very catchy and truly hooks and holds the listener's attention. A few short moments later the band leads into one of my favourite moments on the EP. It is the little break at the 1 min mark when we're met by a very cool and quick accented drum fill. This kicks off a chugging guitar riff and pummeling double bass run. This section makes the listener feel like you're being taken on a ride by a barreling freight train. It's marching forward and there is nothing you can do, but just hope you make it out alive. From there the band weaves into a brief passage which features some spazzy guitars and simplified drums. I find this reminiscent of early Daughters material and aims at making the listeners head spin due to the dizzying effect it creates. As the momentum builds somewhat, it eventually climaxes into the track's final moments. The listener is hit by a heavy dose of more concussive guitars, pulverising drums and skull piercing screams. What a rush!

Next up is "Hard Bodies Are Everywhere! Hand Me My Blade!". This track, much like the album artwork is themed around the film American Psycho. It begins with a chugging riff and heavy double bass drumming. The band really wants to take no prisoners here. It's a savage assault on the ears. This then leads the listener into a back and forth exchange of disorientating walls of guitars and metallic chugging riffs. It's utter madness as one tries to make sense of it all. The track features an audio clip from the film American Pyscho just past the 1 min mark. This is the scene in which Patrick Batemen makes a confession phone call to his lawyer. It is offset with an accented snare pattern and punchy bass guitar lines. This sets the tone of the absolute mania WRECK OF THE MINOTAUR has employed up to this point. Eventually, this culminates into a blasting section of drums and buzzing guitars that hit like a swarm of bees. The track then closes out with a heavy breakdown section that feels very reminiscent of early Ion Dissonance to me. It's crushingly heavy and interspersed with some more calculated bursts of intensity and violently delivered screams.

On a brief side note, this track was also featured on the 'Mecha Organa Vol. 1 compilation' alongside some other noise-based contemporaries. This includes the likes of Brazen Bull, Equal Minds Theory, Isetta, Journal and The Last of Lucy to name a few. Give it a listen here.

Track number 4 is "The Court Of Ted" and is the shortest song on the EP. It is another favourite and really kicks off with a bang. The listener is hit by thunderous walls of distortion, technical drums, and psychotic screams. This leads to some bombastic guitar gymnastics which is punctuated by some punishing accents with bass drum and crash hits. The midsection of the track is a waving ride of ups and downs taking the listener on one hell of a ride. The track eventually nears its end with some seemingly sinister tones employed by the band. This showcases the band's skillful usage of dynamics to illustrate brooding moods within their material. The ominous-sounding guitar, the gravely bass, and simplified drums slowly wind things down to a fade-out.

The album closes with the beast "My Sweet Annabella I'm Not Coming Home". The listener is met with another intense start. Blasting drums and overwhelming guitars envelop one's ears. WRECK OF THE MINOTAUR truly aims for the jugular here. As the guitars ring out at the 30-sec mark, the guitars charge in again. This time the listener is met with some punchy accented riffs and grooving drum work. Around the 1 min mark, the band slows things down and changes tact. With the guitars absent for a moment, the bass and drums weave gently with James adopting a yelling vocal delivery. The guitars begin to swell and dart back into a cacophony of jolted riffs, savage screams, and violently urgent drums. This all lasts mere moments as things are reigned in again for the track's final curtain call. The guitar, bass, drums, and vocals build upon a climactic passage. The unexpected usage of the violin midway through helps to build the growing tension. The guitars slowly explode and lead to a chugging ending. What an absolutely epic way to cap this top-notch thrill ride.

Upon the completion of this release, the band had begun work on writing and recording a follow-up EP. During this process, they ultimately disbanded due to their drummer leaving and emigrating to Canada. Plans were made to find a new drummer, but it proved too difficult to find someone who was capable of playing Lee's technical drum parts. Some of the final results of these EP recording sessions were the two killer single tracks entitled "LBU (Let's Be Unfriendly)" and "A Kiss For Luck But You Still Shit Your Knickers". Both of these singles again highlight the potential of WRECK OF THE MINOTAUR as they deliver their brand of calculated chaos and what could have resulted had the band managed to continue onwards. Holy Roar Records would use "A Kiss For Luck" on their Happy Holy Roar! Vol. 3 cassette tape compilation. It would feature some other UK based favourites like Bastions, Crocus and Brutality Will Prevail to name a few.

In conclusion, I would say that 'A Little Roy One On One' is a rather under-appreciated gem of the UK mathcore scene. The band definitely deserved more attention from local and international audiences. I could easily have seen them sitting comfortably on a roster of like-minded UK based labels like Holy Roar Records, Speedowax Records or Thirty Days Of Night Records. If you're a fan of extreme or chaotic music in general, I highly suggest taking the time to give the EP a spin and download it on Bandcamp. It's absolutely stellar and should be considered a math-grind classic.
P.S. James has expressed interest in trying to reform the band again. Anyone who is based in the UK and enjoys this type of genre direction should get in touch via the band's Facebook page. Guitars, bass, and drums are welcomed. It would be so amazing seeing this beast rise and hit stages again.

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DISCOGRAPHY

2009 - A Little Roy One On One cdEP (stream/donate/download here)
2009 - Happy Holy Roar! Vol. 3 cassette compilation (contributed "A Kiss For Luck")

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(2009) WRECK OF THE MINOTAUR - "Hard Bodies Are Everywhere! Hand Me My Blade!" (from 'A Little Roy One on One')

(2009) WRECK OF THE MINOTAUR - "Big Money Stella" (from 'A Little Roy One on One')

(2009) WRECK OF THE MINOTAUR - "Bull Fight Starts" (from 'A Little Roy One on One')

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WRECK OF THE MINOTAUR additional links
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